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As England is part of the UK, trains in England run similarly to the way that trains in Britain do. Despite this, trains in England can be confusing to navigate especially if you're coming from abroad. The UK proudly boasts the oldest railway network in the world, however, it's also one of the most modern and efficient.  

That's great news if you're planning on exploring this great nation by rail. At Trainline, we use our expertise to help you understand the way trains in England, and indeed, the UK work. Simply tell us where you're going, and we'll help you connect the dots. Check our English route map below to see some of the great places we can take you by train.

 

The English train network

The English train network may seem a little complex if you're visiting for the first time. First, let us break down how the network works, and the different types of trains you can travel on in a bit more detail.

English train map

In the UK, the train network is run by National Rail. All train companies in Great Britain (that includes England, Scotland and Wales) operate under the guidance of National Rail who are primarily responsible for the administration of passenger bookings. National Rail was formed following the privatisation of the British Rail network in 1996, when the network split into 25 separate operating franchises to run trains across the country.    

Network Rail is a separate organization that oversees and maintains all rail infrastructure in the UK, from train tracks to major train stations, and is also responsible for timetables and logistics to make sure everything runs smoothly.  

There are currently over 20 main national train companies that operate within England. They include Virgin TrainsGreat Western Railway (GWR) and East Midlands Trains. Although this may be confusing to first time visitors in England finding the right train to get on is pretty simple.    

As most of these train companies also operate routes outside of England, we recommend that you focus on the route you want to travel on rather than the train company to travel with if you are unsure.   

To find out about all the different train operating companies who keep all the wheels on track in all of Great Britain, visit our train companies page.

If you're a night owl or want to save some time by travelling by night, then a sleeper train could be just the ticket. Sleeper trains are usually equipped with beds, washbasins, towels and air-conditioning, and have several travel classes onboard depending on your budget and requirements.   

One of the most popular sleeper trains in England is the Night Riviera train which run overnight services from London to Penzance (Cornwall) and vice versa.  

For those arriving in England, chances are you're going to land at one of London's main airports that include Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted or City. To get from Heathrow Airport to central London for example, there are a number of train operating companies like TfL Rail and Heathrow Express that service this route to London Paddington, which is well-linked to connect you to your final destination.    

To see the full list of UK airports with train transfer services and to book online, check out our UK airports page. (Oh yeah, did we mention we also sell bus tickets to the major airports too!?)  

 

 

If time isn't a factor, or you’re a penny pincher travelling on a budget, we can take you where you want to go by bus instead. There's an extensive bus and coach network in England which makes reaching the most remote and unique locations possible, and we’ve partnered with the UK’s largest bus/coach operator National Express to take you there 

Buses in the England are usually cheaper than trains, but the journey time can be a little longer. As well as being an affordable option for travellers, most bus companies in the UK come equipped with all the modern onboard facilities that make bus journeys comfortable and hassle-free.   

If you're currently enjoying the beauty of the English countryside or wandering in the Peak Districtthen why not tempt yourself with the rest of Great Britain by checking out our trains in the UK page.  We'll show you how everything works and how to navigate the UK train network. 

Find out more about trains in the UK 

English train tickets explained

Now you've seen the possibilities, it's time to get to grips with train tickets in England. When booking your train tickets, you'll see a range of pricing options and ticket types available to you. Our table below explains what each ticket type means and when you can use them.   

English train ticket types

Ticket type Description
Advance tickets

If you know your exact travel dates, book Advance tickets ahead of schedule to reserve your seat.

Find out more about Advance train tickets.

Anytime tickets

Offers complete flexibility. Catch any applicable train at a time that suits you, although seats cannot be reserved and are not guaranteed.

Find out more about Anytime train tickets.

Off-Peak tickets

Travel at less busy times and benefit from reduced fares.

Discover more on Off-Peak train tickets.

Super Off-Peak tickets Like Off-Peak tickets but only available at the very quietest times of the day. Prices tend to be cheaper too.

Peak vs. Off-Peak travel

If you've got flexible travel plans, then travelling by train in Off-Peak times may save you some money. The main difference between Peak and Off-Peak tickets are all about what time(s) during the day you travel. Peak times vary from train operator to train operator but generally, they tend to be in the mornings and late afternoon times during busy commuting times on weekdays. Off-Peak tickets can usually be found outside of these times, such as in the middle of the day or later at night on weekdays, and on weekends and public holidays (known as bank holidays in England).

For more information, check out our Off-Peak train times and tickets page.

 

Flexible tickets

If you're a nomad who doesn't like to be tied down by exact travel dates and times, you can purchase flexible tickets to allow you to travel at any point of the day. In England they are normally called Anytime tickets (either Anytime Day or standard Anytime). You can get flexible tickets for travel on a certain date or ones that cover travel for multiple dates. They're usually a tad more expensive than fixed time tickets because they allow you to travel during Peak periods.

Note that if you book a flexible ticket and travel on a train without a reserved seat, you can only sit in a seat if it hasn’t been reserved by another passenger (as noted by a digital display above the window, or a printed paper reserved ticket attached to the chair).

One-way or return options

Like with airline travel, you have the option to book either one-way or a return ticket. If you're travelling out of town for a day trip, or you're returning to the same destination within a month by train, you can usually buy a ticket that is cheaper than two single one-way trips by selecting the return option. Selecting the Day Return (Anytime Day Return, Off-Peak Day Return etc.) option will allow you to take a trip to and from the same destinations in the same day, or a standard Return (Anytime Return, Off-Peak Return etc.) will normally allow you to travel back on your return journey within one calendar month of the date shown on your ticket.

Find out more about Return train tickets.

 

Standard or First Class

If you're looking for the most affordable train travel options, a standard ticket could be what you're after. Alternatively, if you're coming to England for a well-earned break, you can treat yourself and upgrade to a First Class ticket. Most train companies in the UK offer First Class tickets that come with bigger tables and extra legroom, with some including a meal and free WiFi access. First Class facilities depend on the route and the train company you're travelling with and are sometimes subject to availability.

Discover additional benefits of travelling First Class.

 

Connections to inner-city public transport

In train stations in the many big cities in England, you'll find convenient bus, tram and subway connections to get you to your hotel or to catch another train if you're only passing through.

 

UK train timetables and schedules

Whether you're going from London to York by train or trying to get to one of England’s airports from a city centre, we'll show you live train times and schedules weeks in advance for any National Rail journey in Scotland, all in real time.

Get live train times in our app

By downloading our app, not only do you have your tickets in the palm of your hand, you also get access to live train times. If everything is running smoothly with your train, or it's delayed for some reason, you'll be the first to know. What's more – app users get platform information before those waiting by the departure boards.

Download our app

 

Live updates at the station

If you don't have our app, you'll find electronic departure boards in most stations' entrance halls, showing live updates, train times and platform information. All travel information will also be announced on a tannoy (loudspeaker) system in English.

Best way to buy train tickets in England

Buying your England train tickets online or on our app is the quickest way to get onboard. To speed up the process we've also got Mobile Ticket and eTicket options, or have a look at the other collection methods below.   

Cheap train travel in England

If you're after cheap train tickets in England, check out the hints below and see how you could bag yourself discounted train tickets. We'll even highlight the cheapest prices!

Travel England by train

As well as the popular destinations, there are loads of amazing places you can visit by train in England, and the interconnected rail network makes travelling cross-country quick and easy. To find some inspiration on where to go, check out these highlights below. 

Cornwall

St Ives / Port Isaac / Newquay

The Celtic Kingdom of Cornwall is where land meets sea. Quintessentially English and picturesque, Cornwall is well-known for its magnificent coastline, 300 miles of dunes and cliffs, medieval harbours and oak-forested creeks. And of course, the yummy pasties. The views are so good from the trains in Cornwall that it made our list for the top 12 scenic train rides in the world not once, but twice!

Discover trains to Cornwall.

Devon

Exeter / Torquay / Barnstable

Welcome to Devon, the place for surfers and sun-worshippers and everyone in between. Be it Exeter,  Totnes, Plymouth or Dartmoor, a trip to Devon surprises and stimulates in equal measure. Enjoy wild and rugged scenery and a dose of the south coast on a journey of a lifetime.

Discover trains to Devon.

Lake District

Windermere / Ambleside / Keswick

"The Lakes" and "Lakeland" as it's also known, is a haven for explorers and hikers and those who like to get lost in nature. Situated in North West England, this National Park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017, and a stay amongst the lakes, mountains and forests will reveal exactly why.  

Discover trains to the Lake District.

The North East

Newcastle / Middlesborough / Teeside

The North East is undergoing a major reinvention but you can still feel the presence of its reputation as the industrial heartland of England. Marvel at the magnificent Angel of the North sculpture and discover the area of England that inspired the writings of Bill Bryson.  

Discover trains to Newcastle.

Travelling from England to the rest of the UK

If you're travelling from abroad, you could seize the opportunity to explore other places in Great Britain from your base in England. Check out these incredible UK destinations you can reach by train.

Good to know

If you haven't already learnt enough, we've added these extra handy tips and FAQ's to make your life just that little bit sweeter.

On longer or more popular routes, you can usually reserve a seat if you book a ticket for a fixed time and request a seat allocation when you book. You can't choose your exact seat like you can when booking a plane ticket, but you can request services like an aisle or window seat, forward or rear-facing seat, a seat in the quiet carriage, a table seat, or a seat near a toilet. Please note that these services are requested, but can never be guaranteed. If a seat booking is available, you will see it in your basket on the payment screen on our site I.e. Coach B, seat 48 (Window).

If you book a flexible ticket, you may be given the option to reserve a seat and travel time for your outbound journey, but you won't be guaranteed a reserved seat if you don't travel on the train you've booked the ticket for. Many trains have unreserved sections allocated, so you'll need to board the train and walk through the carriages to look for a seat without a printed ticket slip (usually found attached to the headrest). Some seats may only be reserved for a smaller portion of the journey, so if there's a printed slip on the seat and nobody is sitting in it, you maybe be able to sit there for some of the journey if the passenger is getting on at a later stop.

Children under the age of five can travel for free with a fare-paying adult however it doesn’t always mean they're guaranteed a seat. On busy trains, infants may have to travel on the lap of the adult to make room for other passengers. For 5-15 year old's, there are half-priced tickets available on selected routes but a proof of age may be required when you travel. Be sure to select the "child" option in the journey planner when you're booking.

You can travel with three items of luggage per person on most trains in England. This usually means you can take two suitcases and a piece of hand luggage. Additional articles such as surfboards and bicycles may be taken for a fee and are subject to space availability. For peace of mind, it's best to contact the train company ahead to make sure you can travel with these extra items.

Yes. In some major train stations in England like London Victoria or Manchester Piccadilly there may be places where you can store your luggage. While some smaller stations don't have this facility, to find out which stations have luggage storage facilities, visit our UK train stations page.

 

You can only break your journey provided you haven't bought an Advance ticket. If you're going from say, London to Bristol, one of your calling points would be the ancient city of Bath. At this station, or any others along the way, you'd be free to get off and explore for a few hours. After that, simply hop on the next available train and continue on your way.

For more information visit the National Rail Conditions of Travel page.

If you want to make multiple journeys during your stay in England, you have three options. A BritRail England Pass which covers the whole country, a BritRail South West Pass or a BritRail London Plus Pass. They give you an affordable and flexible way to explore England and can take the stress out of buying individual tickets. 

Learn more about BritRail passes.

*All post-sale care and communications will be with the third party booking company.